In the weighted flow-time problem on a single machine, we are given a set of n jobs, where each job has a processing requirement pj, release date rj, and weight wj. The goal is to find a preemptive schedule which minimizes the sum of weighted flow-time of jobs, where the flow-time of a job is the difference between its completion time and its released date. We give the first pseudopolynomial time constant approximation algorithm for this problem. The algorithm also extends directly to the problem of minimizing the ℓp norm of weighted flow-times. The running time of our algorithm is polynomial in n, the number of jobs, and P, which is the ratio of the largest to the smallest processing requirement of a job. Our algorithm relies on a novel reduction of this problem to a generalization of the multicut problem on trees, which we call the Demand MultiCut problem. Even though we do not give a constant factor approximation algorithm for the Demand MultiCut problem on trees, we show that the specific instances of Demand MultiCut obtained by reduction from weighted flow-time problem instances have more structure in them, and we are able to employ techniques based on dynamic programming. Our dynamic programming algorithm relies on showing that there are near optimal solutions which have nice smoothness properties, and we exploit these properties to reduce the size of the dynamic programming table.

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SIAM Journal on Computing
Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica, Amsterdam (CWI), The Netherlands

Batra, J., Garg, N., & Kumar, A. (2023). Constant factor approximation algorithm for weighted flow-time on a single machine in pseudopolynomial time. SIAM Journal on Computing, 52(6), FOCS18158–FOCS18188. doi:10.1137/19M1244512